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'Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere'

US demands ‘immediate and thorough’ probe into journalist’s death in West Bank

American ambassador to the UN calls Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing ‘really horrifying’; State Department spokesperson says ‘those responsible must be held accountable’

Protesters hold candles and a photo of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF raid in Jenin, in Haifa on May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Protesters hold candles and a photo of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF raid in Jenin, in Haifa on May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The White House called for an “immediate and thorough” probe into the death of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday morning.

Abu Akleh, 51, was shot in the head while covering an Israeli arrest operation in the city.

Born in Jerusalem, Abu Akleh spent time in the United States as a child and held US citizenship along with her Jerusalem residency card.

“Investigating attacks on independent media and prosecuting those responsible are of paramount importance,” deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about the incident.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called Abu Akleh’s death “really horrifying,” and called for a transparent investigation.

She said protecting American citizens and journalists was “our highest priority.”

Thomas-Greenfield said Abu Akleh did “an extraordinary interview” with her in the West Bank last November. “I left there feeling extraordinary respect for her,” she noted.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States ambassador to the United Nations, speaks at the general assembly hall, at United Nations Headquarters, Feb. 23, 2022. (John Minchillo/AP)

“We are heartbroken by and strongly condemn the killing,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“Those responsible must be held accountable,” he added. “Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere.”

The White House has asked the Palestinian Authority and Israel to open a joint investigation into Abu Akleh’s death, the Walla news site reported, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

Price said later Wednesday that the US believes “the Israelis have the wherewithal and the capabilities to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation.”

Israel’s IDF chief said he had set up an immediate probe. Israel also told the US it was ready to cooperate on an investigation, but the Palestinians have not yet responded, the report said.

The UN human rights office condemned the killing and demanded a transparent investigation.

“We are appalled at the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin, Palestine,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s office said, noting that office representatives were on the ground verifying the facts.

“We urge an independent, transparent investigation into her killing. Impunity must end,” the statement said.

Palestinian militants carry the body of Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist for Al Jazeera network, into the morgue inside the Hospital in the West Bank town of Jenin, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Commenting on Abu Akleh’s death earlier Wednesday, the Israeli military said troops entered Jenin’s flashpoint refugee camp and the nearby town of Burqin to arrest terror suspects, amid a wave of terror attacks against Israelis that started in March.

“During the operation in Jenin refugee camp, suspects fired an enormous amount of gunfire at troops and hurled explosive devices. [Israeli] forces fired back,” the army said in a statement.

The army said it was “looking into the possibility that journalists were injured, potentially by Palestinian gunfire.”

According to reports on Hebrew-language media Wednesday evening, Israeli and Palestinian officials were in advanced talks for cooperation in the investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. An unnamed Israeli security source said a ballistics probe was needed to determine whether she was killed by Israeli or Palestinian gunfire.

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